If Adam and Eve are figurative

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

I’ve come to the conclusion that none of Genesis 1-11 is literal history. Previously I did think that Genesis 2-3 was describing actual events (albeit ones which did not happen at the beginning of time). But after watching Ben Stanhope’s video, where he explains that it is mathematically almost impossible that the geneologies of Genesis were actual lifespans (which coincidentally all had similar numerological significance) I think that it’s highly unlikely that Genesis 1-11 is actual history, rather it is the ‘meaning’ of these passages that ought to be meditated on, not their truth. This is by no means an issue for me, but for those of you who follow the NT, and believe in a figurative Adam and Eve, how is this reconciled with Jesus? Is it possible?

(Peaceful Science) #2

@Reggie_O_Donoghue consider the hypothesis that it is an inspired myth, through which God inspired historical truth. After CS Lewis, it might be a “myth that became true.”

This seems to affirm the ANE literature you have taken too, but also be coherent with the NT. It might have been figurative, until God inspired it to bend towards historical truth.

This is a specious argument. Two alternative hypothesis:

  1. God providentially governed the generation lengths to communicate something of numerological significance.

  2. Or following the genre, the author rounded the real ages to ages of numerological significance.

Of course, there is an open debate about whether or not these lifespans have gaps, or if they include multiple generations too. The argument for low mathematical probability is genuinely incoherent argument against its historicity.

(Curtis Henderson) #3

Hi Reggie, do you happen to have a link to this?


If time travel were possible it would have been absolutely fascinating to hear the opinions of the people who wrote Genesis and their thoughts on their writings and philosophy/theology in general.

(Peaceful Science) #5

See Table 2 for a summary of the data:


The point is, correctly, that the numbers of the genealogies are special. We can and and should recognize that. They fact that they land this way is likely improbable, though I do have the same concerns about this type of calculation as I do about other probability calculations. I’m not sure we can precisely trust it. Regardless, we can grant that there is a signature for something other than just randomly distributed numbers.

The part I contest, however, is that this is any evidence against their historicity. It is well know that mathematically precision was not really part of the cultural context. Perhaps Adam was figurative. It is just a plausible that they “rounded” numbers those of more significance (much as we round numbers today). It is also possible that genealogies are supposed to teach us we all descend from Adam, but are not precisely historical, but Adam is historical. The fact that these numbers are symbolically significant does not facilly resolve what is or isn’t historical here.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

I lean towards this view now

(Wookin Panub) #7

What meaning? If Genesis 1-11 is not true, then God is a LIAR (period) Genesis 1-11 ties either directly or indirectly into every doctrine, meaning that without Genesis 1-11 the bible has zero foundation and crumbles on itself. Why 1-11? Why not 12 or 13. Why stop? Why not all of the book of Genesis. It is silly just stopping at 11, without anything in scripture advising you not to. Think about it. You go to an atheist and say, I trust the bible except for Genesis 1-11……seriously?

(Christy Hemphill) #8

“Figurative” doesn’t equal “not true.” Come on.

(Wookin Panub) #9

Genesis 1-11 being figurative is your presupposition. I can use that argument for the entire bible. If Adam is figurative and his sin was figurative, then Jesus did not really die a physical death on the cross. It was a figurative death

(Christy Hemphill) #10

No, that would be stupid. No one says eleven chapters of the Bible are “figurative.” That is not how textual analysis works at all. Just because you use the word “figurative” to mean “dismissed as not true” doesn’t mean that is what the word means.

By your completely non-sensical logic, I can use the argument “if Jesus is my Shepherd, I am either a literal sheep or the whole Bible is a lie and Jesus never existed.”

(Wookin Panub) #11

You are the one who brought up the term, “figurative”

As for my “completely nonsensical logic” If I don’t take the bible literal, then I can’t know that Jesus is using “shepherd” metaphorically, since the rest of scripture goes on to explain that. I don’t agree with those who say, we shouldn’t say literal interpretation, instead we should use the terms, ‘wooden literal interpretation’. Bahhh… The ONLY way you can understand what God is trying to convey is to read the bible in a literal fashion, or else what would be the point of biblical teachers. Biblical interpretation becomes post modern, and the bible means differently to each individual reading it.

(Christy Hemphill) #12

It is the topic of this thread. It is the context in which I interpreted your comments about “If Genesis 1-11 is not true.” No one talked about Genesis 1-11 not being true. People were talking about Adam and Eve being figurative. You were the one who made the giant leap from “Maybe Adam is figurative” to “Genesis 1-11 is not true.”

(Wookin Panub) #13

I was responding to the first line of his post

(Wookin Panub) #14

I heard of this excellent dialogue between two people; one a believer and the other an unbeliever, both studying the sciences. The believer did not buy into Genesis 1-11, and was explaining to the unbeliever what the bible probably meant as oppose to what was plainly stated. The conversation ended with the unbeliever asking the believer, “At what point does your god start telling the truth?” Excellent question! Does God start telling the truth in verse 12 or is it verse 1…In the beginning…

(Laura) #15

Once again it sounds like you’re conflating “true” with “absolutely literal at every point.”

(Wookin Panub) #16


(Edward Miller) #17

I believe that Adam and Eve were literal people; however, there may have been more settlements of people around the world, made in the image of God, i.e., they had spirits. It is also possible that Adam and Eve were the first two people whose descendants evolved into other human races.

(Wookin Panub) #18

Two of the most dangerous words when interpreting scripture.

(Edward Miller) #19

I have no problem with those words; however, I find your philosophy interesting. If you have a moment, I would like to know why you do not like the words “I believe.” It is nice communicating with you. Are your reasons from science or history?

(Wookin Panub) #20

Nice communicating with you as well :slight_smile: Why I do not like ‘I believe’…hmmmm…let me count the vays. Seriously, using those two words can make the bible mean anything i.e. I know of self professed believers who say, I believe that Elijah was taken to heaven by aliens. We must always use scripture to interpret scripture. You can say, “I believe” but make sure that you have a solid scriptural principle backing for support. There are things in the bible I would not be dogmatic about i.e. Where was Jesus between the time of his death and resurrection? I BELIEVE he was in hell, but then I will give scriptural support as to why I believe so.